Ask the Experts: IMAX Enhanced Explained  

IMAX Enhanced made waves with the recent debut of IMAX Enhanced sound with DTS:X on select Disney+ titles. We spoke with Deston Bennett, senior director, business development & partnerships at IMAX Streaming and Consumer Technology, and our own director, product management, Sven Mevissen, about this exciting launch and what it means for consumers, content providers and OEMs. 

What exactly is IMAX Enhanced? 

Deston Bennett: IMAX Enhanced is an elevated home entertainment offering brought to life through a partnership between IMAX and DTS to deliver a consumer experience that’s unrivaled in the market today. It consists of a content experience that delivers exclusive IMAX versions of the films coupled with best-in-class certified devices for an optimized IMAX quality presentation in the home. 

How does IMAX Enhanced bring the theatrical IMAX experience home? 

Deston Bennett: We take our exclusive versions of IMAX films and bring them into the home on streaming services with specific features and benefits like expanded aspect ratio that take our 1.43 and 1.90 versions from the theaters into the home on televisions and handheld devices. That’s coupled with the IMAX Enhanced sound delivered via DTS technology, which takes our theatrical 12 channel or 5 channel audio and reconfigures it for high performance device playback. 

How is IMAX Enhanced different from other streamed content? 

Sven Mevissen: IMAX Enhanced is not just a format, it’s a unique ecosystem combining both exclusive content and device certification. What further sets it apart is its optimized playback scenario, where the content triggers certain playback modes on those devices, like TVs and AVRs. That means consumers at home don’t have to push various buttons to make sure their TV is set to the right picture mode or their AVRs and soundbars are set up correctly.  

How can an in-market consumer tell which devices will deliver the best IMAX experience? 

Deston Bennett: Our certified devices are branded IMAX Enhanced. That means they’ve gone through a certification assessment involving a strict review process designed by IMAX and DTS and other Hollywood experts to qualify the technical performance of those devices. So whether you’re purchasing at a retail store or online you can look for the IMAX Enhanced branding with the peace-of-mind the device can deliver a premium experience. 

Sven Mevissen: Additionally, because IMAX Enhanced is an additive ecosystem, not all your devices have to be IMAX Enhanced certified to enjoy IMAX Enhanced content. But the more IMAX Enhanced devices you add to your setup, the better the experience is going to be at home. 

Does a high-quality experience mean having to pay high prices for devices? 

Sven Mevissen: You can easily spend a lot if you want to, but you certainly don’t have to.  

We expanded the ecosystem to adjacent markets, so we have soundbars in the IMAX Enhanced program. There are expensive TVs, but also more affordable ones that meet our criteria and specifications. And that’s really what this label stands for. We want to help address that consumer confusion of seeing all those labels with 4K HDR and UHD, etc., so that when they see the IMAX Enhanced label, they know they are buying into a quality experience. 

How can content owners benefit from IMAX Enhanced? 

Deston Bennett: The value that IMAX Enhanced delivers for content owners is, at a high level, exclusive IMAX versions of the film, which typically either have only been seen in IMAX theaters or have been delivered and now are remastered in the IMAX Enhanced format. Along with that, we do a proprietary, pre-processing stage where we go in and improve color and brightness to make sure that presentation on the device is met at the consumer level.  

Sven Mevissen: It is very similar for audio. With IMAX Enhanced sound with DTS:X, we are really delivering a unique version of the theatrical mix, basically derived from the theatrical print master that was shown in IMAX theaters. Content owners now, for the first time, can present their at-home customers the full dynamic range of theatrical audio on IMAX Enhanced certified devices.  

How does IMAX Enhanced optimize audio and video quality for IMAX Enhanced streams? 

Sven Mevissen: For audio, it’s an adaptation where we preserve the full dynamic range of the original mix. IMAX theaters are built very uniquely when it comes to sound systems; they don’t have dedicated LFE channels in the content. So our adaptation ensures the audio plays back well in the consumer environment. In terms of creative intent, it’s untouched. In terms of dynamic range, it’s untouched, except some subtle sub-bass management to deliver a dedicated LFE channel for home systems. It’s really a theatrical experience for consumers at home. 

Deston Bennett: On the picture side we use our proprietary DMR (Digital Media Remastering) technology to deliver video that captures the creative intent of the filmmaker and makes sure that intent is preserved at home. DMR processing helps to preserve the full dynamic range of the picture quality consumers know and love in an IMAX theater. 

What is the relationship between IMAX Enhanced and Disney+? 

Sven Mevissen: IMAX Enhanced content on Disney+ was first launched about two-and-a-half years ago with an image-first focus. We’re now introducing a second phase to the experience, which is IMAX Enhanced sound by DTS:X, available on a collection of titles.  

Deston Bennett: The featured title for IMAX Enhanced sound by DTS on Disney+ is an IMAX concert film, Queen Rock Montreal. Eighteen additional Marvel films on Disney+ will now feature the IMAX Enhanced sound feature with DTS:X as well. 

Will the Disney+ app automatically detect IMAX Enhanced sound with DTS? 

Sven Mevissen: The Disney+ app will absolutely detect the capability of the consumer’s device and tell them what is available on that device. For example, if someone has a TV that supports DTS:X – and we have many TV device makers in the program like Sony, Hisense, TCL and others – when they pick one of the titles, they’ll receive an alert that there is a new feature available on their device. They will be asked if they want to opt in, and if they do, they will, from then on, get the IMAX Enhanced sound with DTS:X version for those particular titles.  

What other content is available with IMAX Enhanced sound with DTS? 

Deston Bennett: We have over 250 titles on the Sony Pictures Core service available on Sony BRAVIA TVs. We also have a selection of Paramount titles available with the Sony titles on Rakuten TV in Europe, and recently added services in China with IQIYI and Tencent, who offer local language content in addition to some of the Sony content. 

Can projectors also be IMAX Enhanced certified? 

Sven Mevissen: Yes, we’ve had dedicated certification specifications for projectors since 2019, and we recently added a new manufacturer of high-end projectors, and the first smart projector in the program. 

Does IMAX Enhanced work on mobile devices or tablets? 

Deston Bennett: Absolutely. The goal for IMAX Enhanced and IMAX at large is to deliver the best viewing experience wherever fans are watching. So we deliver our IMAX Enhanced titles on tablets and mobile devices, as well. 

Sven Mevissen: Obviously on a device like a tablet for example, the theatrical mix is not necessarily the ideal form of consuming audio, so we have headphone technology to render a binaural experience for those devices. 

 

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